As technology progresses and our collective attention span turns to dust, it’s really remarkable that anyone cares about anything over five years old, let alone twenty-plus. Just ask the parents of the world. On this sold out night at the Academy, fans flock to see a group who’ve defied trends and a tragic accident to remain in the niche they’ve carved out with albums like Around The Fur and White Pony: Sacramento’s own Deftones. From almost the minute the venue opens, the room packs people who are fairly homogenous on the whole; you get the sense that Deftones, despite their stature, still possess a real connection with their contingent.
Up first are Three Trapped Tigers, the most experimental and impenetrable band of the evening. A bubble of enthusiasm has been growing around the band online, namely for their psychedelic video collaboration with comedian and musician Matt Berry (on the track ‘Reset.’) Furthermore, Deftones main man Chino Moreno hand-picked the group for tour based on their remarkable sound. With such accolades, you’d expect the band to be swaggering around like they were Viva Brother; not so much. The trio take to the stage in an understated and, judging by their subdued manner, uncomfortable way; they strike you as a group perhaps more built for the studio than the rigours of live performance. However, doubts soon subside as the band work their way into their material- an imagined take on post-rock, mathcore and electronic music. As guitarist and keyboard player Matt Calvert switches between instruments, looping his guitar whilst further layering track, their performance soon feels like one connected piece. This elicits numerous reactions from the crowd; many heads bop up and down with the inventive drumming of Adam Betts, whilst other gyrate to the keys of Tom Rogerson. All of this mixed in with harmonised vocals and the occasional metal core riff. Palpable confusion descends on those who’ve come for a slamming night of alternative metal. A curious atmosphere; still, you feel, that’s just how Three Trapped Tigers would want it.
At this point, me and my friend Kyle begin the first of our many reasonably-priced Tuborgs of the evening. It’s remarkable how the room stays so abuzz, even with another act to come, goings to show the eagerness towards the headliners, here in support of latest album Koi No Yokan. The record is their latest since Diamond Eyes, an album recorded in the aftermath of bassist Chi Cheng’s debilitating car accident, marking a return to form from that troubled period. letlive. are in the midst of setting up, particularly with one roadie bearing a t-shirt reading ‘Show Stop!’ Odd; an inside joke? I thought back to the grainy videos of them I’d seen on the bus on the way here. An incredibly energetic and sweaty frontman, rapturous audience member, songs with gravitas and nuance. In the mood for a spectacle, expectations are raised.
‘La Prologue’ kicks off the band’s set with vocalist Jason Aalon Butler running onstage. Over the course of the set, he puts across a performance which, at times, appears possessed, on drugs, or somewhere between. This is best seen in his front flip during second song ‘The Sick, Sick 6.8 Billion.’ He is undoubtedly the focal point of the performance, his antics, such as carrying guitarist Jeff Sayhoun’s microphone stand across the stage, forces aforementioned roadie to make more than a few appearances. Butler gets a good reaction from the crowd, but it doesn’t make his band any more tolerable to this nicely Tuborged writer. Over the course of their sizeable set, the songs soon drift into one, but not as with Three Trapped Tigers; everything just seems fast or mid paced, lacking subtleties in favour of exhausting the ‘wow’ factor. It’s a shame that great tracks such as ‘Day 54’ are forgone in favour of tracks dedicated to bloody Your Demise. All speed, no satisfaction.
After a short wait, the lights dim and the band of the night take to the stage. Opening with ‘Diamond Eyes’, lead singer Chino Moreno makes his presence felt from the get-go. He’s a frontman of impressive energy and individuality, at times seemingly like a rapper taking the centre stage, other times in the crowd as if this was a punk show, never letting up the rare intimacy struck with such a large room. His vocals have a deserved high presence in the mix, the contrast between his melodies and screeches enliven as opposed to jar. It’s an impressive feat of talent, as opposed to backflips. This is further emphasised when Moreno straps on a guitar half-way through the set and plays tracks like ‘Entombed’, one of the more downplayed, and even heavier, moments of the evening. Overall, Deftones are on good form tonight; guitarist Stephen Carter blasts the riffs of tunes such as ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’ and ‘Change (In The House Of Flies)’ with the unhinged passion the source requires. Latest addition Sergio Vega, bassist, comes across as a real member of the unit, particularly in his backing vocals and lively stage presence. As the night goes on, there’s a palpable flow to the evening as they play choice cuts from their back catalogue, as well as allowing newer songs like ‘Swerve City’ and ‘Rosemary’ to shine. The band play tightly, particularly in lesser heard tracks such as ‘Passenger.’ It’s a testament to the band and their fans that such an atmospheric track doesn’t drag the concert down, but adds a striking contrast to the likes of ‘Engine Number 9.’ As a track, it captures the performances of DJ/keysman Frank Delgado and drummer Abe Cunningham, lesser appreciated but crucial in bringing the nuances of the track to life. It’s an odd situation, as clearly Deftones have much energy and life in them yet, to still be playing such relatively small venues when bands half their age and talent come to the fore. It’s just fortunate for the fever-pitch crowd that the band are still as up close and relevant as ever.